An Unlikely Find

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

I admit it: I’m an eBay addict. I’ve bought a ridiculous number of things on the site, including about 80% of my masonic bling, and all in all it’s been a great experience. I don’t buy much any more, but I still keep my eye out for things, including any object related to the guy I wrote my doctoral dissertation on: George W. M. Reynolds, the noted radical journalist, novelist, and rake. He was a prolific author and editor, and I like to at least have the chance to say no to things he might have had a connection with. These days, I mostly stick with copies of  The London Journal, a weekly newspaper he edited. Not long ago, an alert popped up in my inbox that a copy of The London Journal, dated March 15, 1845, was listed for an $8 opening bid. It was nothing special, I thought, and then I noticed one of the keywords: “Freemasonry.” So I bid on it, and since I’m likely the only person in the world who pays attention to listings for The London Journal, I won it. 

The article in question is entitled, “Revelations of Freemasonry, By One of the Initiated.” It is not an exposé in the scandalous sense of the word, but a fairly straightforward examination of what Freemasonry is, how it’s organized, and how business and work are conducted. “The Chief design of the establishment,” The author writes, “is to rectify the heart, inform the mind, and promote the moral and social virtues of humanity, decency, and good order, as much as possible in the world….” It gives a fairly detailed account of a degree, including the oath, and while I’m no expert in English Work, it’s quite recognizable to a modern American Freemason. I’m not going to give any secrets away here, but a few things in the article are worth sharing without violating my own oath; they might prove instructive for modern Masons to compare with their own experience. First, dues were about 20 shillings a year, payable quarterly, a total equivalent to about $1300 a year today. Second, that level of dues didn’t have a negative effect on membership, it seems: typical lodge attendance is given as fifty to sixty, with meetings beginning at seven in the evening in winter, and nine in summer (I’ve been to enough lodges without air conditioning to appreciate the wisdom of that late start time). Finally, when the degree is over, the Master sits down at the altar and proposes a toast to the new Brother, which is drunk to great applause by all assembled. I can think of a few Brothers of my acquaintance who would welcome that practice as a worthy addition to degrees here. 

The article was well worth the money, not only for the peek into 1845 English Freemasonry it provided, but for the new question it’s prompted me to ask: was Reynolds himself a Freemason? I doubt it, for he was a scandalous man, but assumptions about history have a way of producing foolishness, so I’m going to see what I can find out. It would add a new chapter to my dusty dissertation, and might lead me down research paths I haven’t yet thought of. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking for Reynolds ephemera wherever I can find it, especially on eBay. I have an addiction to feed, after all.


R. W. B. Michael H. Shirley is Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M, as well as a Certified Lodge Instructor and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. A Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332, a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua Wisconsin and he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

The Living Cross

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Judy Gordon

“Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin

Job’s Daughters have a closing ceremony. It is quite a moving experience.  If you have not seen it, you are missing out. If you have ever seen the movie “Titanic”, the orchestra plays “Nearer my God to thee” as the boat is sinking. These young ladies are not sinking; these wonderful daughters perform the living cross and sing “Nearer My God to Thee”. There is a special ceremony that coincides with the ceremony, it’s called the Cross Talk.

The International Order of Job's Daughters is an organization created for the purpose of banding together young women who believe in God and the teachings of the Holy Bible. Jobs Daughters was founded on the Book of Job with special emphasis on the 42nd Chapter, 15th Verse where we read, "In all the land were no women found so fair As the daughters of Job, and their Father gave them inheritance among their brethren.”.

 The story of Job, as found in our Ritual, can only be given in a closed meeting. However, one very impressive and important part of the closing ceremony, the forming of the living cross, may be given in an open meeting or by special request.

Some of you may be seeing the formation of the living cross by our officers for the first time. As you observe this very solemn and beautiful ceremony, you must realize that a great deal of thought and care has gone into the positioning of the officers within the cross.

The Honored Queen is at the foot or base of the cross. You might think that she is there as a place of honor, but I would rather believe she is there in humbleness to her officers and as a sign of her willingness to accept her lot - whatever it may be - and to share with the Daughters over whom she presides in their joy as well as in their sorrow.

 The Chaplain is at the center of the cross. She is there near the place Jesus' heart was as he hung on the cross.

 At the ends of the arms of the cross are the Junior and Senior Princesses representing the hands of our Blessed Savior. The purple of the three capes represents the blood, which flowed from his hands and feet as they were nailed to that cross.

 Standing outside and behind the cross are the two Custodians. They serve not only as custodians over the property of the Bethel, but also as custodians of the living cross.

 (The Daughters sing the Amen. They rise and begin to exit, bowing to the Honored Queen while the following is spoken)

 As the Daughters exit the cross, they approach the Honored Queen, nod and turn to the right or left. The design made on the floor of the Bethel Is that of a large open Holy Bible. "And in all the land were no women found so fair as the Daughters of Job, and their Father gave them inheritance among their brethren.

This completes our ceremony…


Judy Gordon is very active in Job's Daughters. She's the Past Honored Queen, and Past Bethel Guardian of Bethel No. 55, Pekin (IL). She received the Cryptic Masons Masonic Youth Leadership Award along with her husband, Ray Gordon in July 2007. She's also Past Matron of the Morton Chapter No. 974 (IL) of the Order of the Eastern Star and Historian of the Emblem Club No. 424 of Pekin (IL). Judy is the recipient of the Degree of Royal Purple (2012) and elected to the Grand Line Illinois Job's Daughters (2015-16). Boaz joined the family in September 2013 and grandmother of 3 wonderful grandsons.

The Widow's Son

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert H. Johnson 32°

This was originally published in 

Boaz and Ruth
Who was the “Widow’s Son”? The answer might seem easily answered, but when one reads of legends, scripture writings, the Apocrypha and other historical documents it becomes apparent that perhaps we cannot answer this question so easily.

In the writings of Masonic scholars we learn of Hiram Abiff, “The Widow’s Son”. There are others referred to as “The Widow’s Son”. It seems this is a title to which more than one can be named. The use of the title is actually traced back to the Grail lore traditions which speak of a descended blood line and specifically reference Ruth.

Ruth, a woman of the Moabite tribe, was married to Boaz, and she was a heroine of the Old Testament. She was also the Great Grandmother of King David. That King David, the father of King Solomon, who built the Temple? Ruth became pregnant, and married Boaz. He was quite a bit older being 80, while Ruth was 40. The book says that Boaz dies the next day. That must have been some wedding night.

From this point on, all the descendants of Ruth, were known simply as “Sons of the Widow”. A genetic title if you will. A genealogy can be traced. Ruth gives birth to the first “Son of the Widow”, Obed, who grows up and bears his son Jesse, who bears his son David who bears his sons Solomon and Nathan.

Using the lineage given in the Gospels of the Christian Bible, Jesus the Nazarene is a descendant of Ruth, making him also, a “Son of the Widow” or “Widow’s Son”. There are forty-five generations from Ruth to Jesus. This leaves an interesting problem for us as Masons. Nowhere in the lineage mentioned in the Bible does it refer to Hiram Abiff.

Knowing this, it seems the trail grows cold in the search for Hiram Abiff’s title of “The Widow’s Son”. The Grail legends were written in a way that lends itself to allegory and therefore, the story cannot be just assumed to mean that Hiram was literally just a son of woman who lost her husband. These legends early on establish this title and what it means, which is a descendant of Ruth or more aptly a descendant of Boaz, either the 31st or 30th generation from Adam if you rely on Luke's genealogy.

Could Hiram Abiff be related somehow to the historical Jesus the Nazarene? The Gospels leave either a cold trail or a definitive “no,” since he isn't mentioned at all in the genealogy given by Luke or Mathew.

Determining that the term “Widow’s Son,” a flip flop of the term “Sons of the Widow,” was not actually meant to refer to a man whose father had passed, but rather the epithet given to the offspring and lineage of Ruth, heroine of “The Book of Ruth” or “Scroll of Ruth” presented in the Old Testament.

When Hiram Abiff is referenced as being a “Widow’s Son”, it is implied that he was of the line of Ruth, who was married to Boaz and from them, according to Luke, a continued line to King David, King Solomon and eventually to Jesus the Nazarene. The problem here is that nowhere in the lineages mentioned in Luke or Mathew does Hiram show up. Was he a distant relative or cousin?

King Solomon was also a “Widow’s Son” in the sense of being of the lineage of Ruth. Is this why King Solomon called for a Tyrian which was handpicked to be the architect of the Jewish Temple of the God of Israel? Could Solomon have hired Hiram since they were family?

Doing detective work in genealogy can be taxing enough when researching ancestry just a few generations removed from the researcher, a task made much more difficult using biblical origins as references.

The lineage of Jacob is vital to this story. Twelve generations prior to the time of King Solomon, and eight generations prior to the time of Boaz, the twelve sons of Jacob were the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. The fourth son of Jacob, Judah, was of the line that included the wise King, and extended through him to Jesus the Nazarene. The sixth son, Naphtali, was the founder of the line that included Hiram Abiff.

 It is elementary to suggest that at the time of Jacob the designation of “Widow’s Son” had not yet been used, however, in his offspring, through time until we reach the time of Ruth, and from then on, it is not so unthinkable that the lineage would have used this epithet when speaking of their heritage or when scholars were recording the history of the time or even the Gospels.

What is it about this lineage which draws the title to it? What was so special? The three largest monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all regard it [the lineage] with reverence. After all, this lineage contains Adam, Enoch, Noah, Shem, Abraham, David, Solomon, Nathan, Zerubbabel and Jesus the Nazarene.

Perhaps the coincidence which ties this lineage together is the ability to create. According to Luke, the line starts with Elohim (The Great Architect of the Universe) and then to Adam. The Christian Bible does not specifically make any magnificent claims to what Adam had ever built, however several other men in this lineage in fact are great builders.

Enoch was the builder of the mythological underground temple consisting of nine vaults with an altar where on the “Stone of Creation” and the Tetragrammaton were said to have been hidden. These legends are featured in the York and Scottish Rites namely the 7th degree in the York Rite called “The Holy Royal Arch” and the 13th degree of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction, called the “Royal Arch of Solomon”. In recent years it has even been suggested that Enoch was the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The ancient Egyptians are said to have known the Great Pyramid as “The Pillar of Enoch”.

A somewhat obscure reference to that is found in the Bible, “In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt…” Isaiah 19:19.
Noah of course built the mythological Ark to house all of the creations of God that were spared in the legend of the great flood.

Abraham or Abram and his son Ishmael are purported to have built the Kaaba, a cube shaped building in Arabia which is one of the holiest sites for Brothers of the Muslim faith.

King David built a city and his palace and had sons, one of whom was King Solomon, who was responsible for the Temple of Solomon, which we all know is at the center of the teachings of our noble craft. These builders in the original line or “Alpha Lineage” the line that according to Luke starts with God and leads to Jesus the Nazarene go on and on with fantastic accomplishments.

Let us not forget however that there is the allusion to the building of the spiritual temple, a spiritual artificer which Jesus the Nazarene seemed to personify and ages before then the character Freemasonry calls its patron, Hiram Abiff. The handpicked chief architect of the Temple of God. A man to emulate in his duty and fealty to his brothers, both Hiram of Tyre and King Solomon, this is the man we learn about in our  degrees and indeed try to emulate.

The “Alpha Line” is synonymous with “The Widow’s Son”. It could merely be the separation of the generational gap and a more coded obscure way of saying “of the Tribe of Judah” without being abrasive.

It could be that the Tribe of Judah was the main branch of this line and that The Widow’s Sons are an offshoot of the original line but whose closeness to the original line needed to be preserved by means of a title given to these builders.

In the end, we will never know if Adam, Jesus the Nazarene or Hiram were truly related, however it is clear that  The Widows Son is a title given to the offspring of Ruth and her descendants. It is also clear that Freemasonry calls its patron Saint Hiram Abiff a “Widow's Son", who was a builder and that the lessons taught philosophically within our Masonic system have much to do with building as well, the main difference is that we are building our spiritual temples. In the Masonic system we follow in the footsteps of Hiram Abiff but we not only represent him, we physically become him in the degrees and in the end we all end up a “Widow’s Son”. Becoming a Master Mason we all end up being builders of fantastic edifices of hearts, minds and souls.

So brethren, I ask you, “Who is the Widow’s Son?”

Look in the mirror brothers and you will surely see him.

Inspired by a brief article in the Trestle board of Blackmer Lodge #442 F&AM, California by WB John R Heisner


Bro. Robert Johnson, 32° is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, Knights Templar, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

A Very Unique Thing

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Jackson County, Missouri is named for Andrew Jackson, who served as the seventh President of the United States, from 1829–37.  The Jackson County Courthouse sits on the town square in Independence, Missouri, the famous home of Harry Truman, the thirty-third President, serving from 1945–53.  When Truman was a county judge from 1922–24 and again from 1926–34, he had an office in the iconic building.

Statues of the two men flank the courthouse.  On the west side, Jackson's statue shows him astride his horse in full military regalia as he might have appeared as a major-general in the Battle of New Orleans.

On the east side of the courthouse, Truman's statue depicts him, cane in hand, taking his morning constitutional, as was his custom in Independence in the days after his presidency.

Together, the placement of these two statues inadvertently makes the courthouse grounds a memorial to a very unique thing: Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman are the only two men who have served both as President of the United States and Grand Master of their respective Masonic Grand Lodges.  Most Worshipful Brother Jackson  was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee from 1822–24; Most Worshipful Brother Truman was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri from 1940–41.


Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. 

The 50 Year Member: Part Ten - From Darkness to Light

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Holser, PM

“I'm not sure we should do this” Herb Johnson said as the sound of a large clap of thunder filled the lodge room. “Grand lodge might get upset about this!” Mike Bailey laughed “Grand lodge will never find out about this and even if they did I really doubt if they would care!” “Herb continued “It isn't very safe. One of them could catch fire!” Bailey shook his head “Come on Herb. We are all grown men! The church down the road has hundreds of candles lit at all times and it has not burned to the ground.”

The debate was fast and furious in the darkened lodge room. A large thunderstorm covered the area and the wind and rain of the storm caused a local blackout just as the lodge was to open for degree work. The Master of the lodge not one to shirk his duties because of a little darkness ordered candles to be lit and placed in the lodge room. Candle sticks from the Demolay chapter were brought in and placed in the East, south and west.  The usual electric light bulbs which represents the lesser lights at the altar were replaced by actual burning tapers. The senior Deacon was given a small candle to carry when he conducted the candidate through the degree work.  “Its just not right guys!” Herb pleaded “I've been a member of this lodge for a long time and we have never done anything like this before.”

A voice came out of the darkness “Herb I was Master of this lodge when you became a member. Nothing will come of this other than we have a new member of this lodge. What else are you going to do? Go home and sit in the darkness and listen to the storm? Our Brethren from centuries past didn't have electricity and the Masonry grew in spite of it!” The 50 year member continued to speak “We tell the world we are the premier Fraternity in the world, comprised of the best men who come to our door and you are saying we can't trust them with a candle? You make it sound like we are children who shouldn't be allowed to play with matches! The Master has said we are going to illuminate the lodge with candles and that is what we are going to do!” Herb muttered “OK. But if something bad happens don't say I didn't try to warn you.” Herb shook his head as he walked to his usual seat among the Past Masters.

Pudge walked into the room, shaking the rain off his trench coat as he walked in. “This is really impressive!” Pudge said as he looked around the room. “This must have been what it was like in the old days when lodge was held.” The 50 year member laughed “Well don't ask me about it. I'm not that old! We had electricity here when I joined!” Pudge laughed “I know that but I am sure it had just been installed! Seriously this is really cool. To be honest this is the way I expected it to be when I joined, a room filled with candles! I think a lot of guys do.” The old man seemed puzzled “Really? You think most men think the room will be lit with candles?” Pudge nodded “Oh yeah, Candles, men in robes, somber music, stuff like that. I think because when they show Masonic stuff in movies that is way they portray it.  I bet that is why the traditional observance lodges are so popular among the younger guys.”

“Traditional observance lodges?” Mike Bailey asked “I don't believe I have heard of those before.” Pudge explained “Traditional observance lodges believe we should go back to the way Freemasonry was practiced before the large influx of members during World War II. Instead of just reading the minutes of the previous meeting and paying bills they bring in speakers from around the world to lecture on Freemasonry and have discussions on various topics like history, symbolism or even Geometry. Pretty intellectual stuff.”

Pudge continued “Members dress in formal wear, tuxedos or white tie and tails, whatever they decide on as a lodge.  Kinda like a lodge uniform.  They also have higher standards for membership. A perspective may have to visit the lodge for several months and be interviewed before he is even given a petition. Then he has to go through a background check and the usual interview. These lodges want to make sure only the best men will become members.  Once they go through the degree the man has to write a paper on a Masonic topic and learn the memory work before he can advance to the nest degree.

After the lodge closes the men gather at a four or five star restaurant in a private room dinner called an Agape which is Greek for love. During the dinner they perform a table lodges complete with toasts. Most of the members of these lodges find them very fulfilling.”

Bailey thought for a second “Meetings by candlelight and they all wear the same clothes? Are they Amish masons?” The 50 year member laughed “No Mike not Amish but they do believe in a more pure, simpler Masonry than lots of lodges practice.”

“The thing that gets me about this is they bring in speakers from all over the world, five star dinners, formal clothes...How do they pay for all of this? I mean even with our pancake breakfasts and our other fundraisers we couldn't afford all of that.” Mike Bailey said. “The dues structure for these lodges are higher than the average set of dues in most lodges. I have heard some of these lodges charges their members about an dollar a day, around three hundred and sixty five dollars on top of about a thousand for the initiation fee.” Pudge said.  “Wow! That much?! That is a fortune!” Bailey exclaimed. 

Pudge laughed “Yes it is but many of these lodges have a waiting list of men waiting to join. They see the value of joining a lodge that offers more than bickering and the reading of the minutes. And they don't have to have spaghetti dinners just to pay their electric bill.”

The Master was sitting at his station and banged his gavel “Brethren we are getting ready to open lodge. Please find your seats and in this darkened condition I mean literally find your seats!” All the men laughed and started to find a place to sit.

“I got a feeling this will be a night we will remember for a long time. “ Mike Bailey Said to Pudge and the 50 year member. “It's too bad we can't do this all the time. After lodge I want to talk to you more about this Traditional observance lodge concept.” Pudge and the old man sat down next to Bailey in the glow of the flickering candlelight “Absolutely!” Pudge said “Maybe by then the power will be back on and we can make coffee and talk about it. “Maybe but to be honest I just hope the power stays off just long enough for us to get through this degree. I don't want the lights to come back on and spoil this evening.”


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana. 

The Clerical Oversight

by Midnight Freemason
Steven L. Harrison, PM, FMLR 33°

From an article originally published in

Years ago I developed a membership management system for my home Lodge. It tracked the standard things you might expect: initiation dates, demographics, Masonic offices held, birth date and the like. When the secretary requested a new feature, I'd add it and test it out in a database that was a duplicate of the live information he used. On occasion I would refresh the test data I had from the live system the secretary had, so the information I had was nearly as complete as his. In fact, on one occasion the secretary called to say his computer had crashed and he hadn't been making backups, so we used my data to recover. Each year for Christmas, the Lodge delivers flowers to the widows of our former members. The year I was Senior Warden we had the Secretary use the system to print a list of the widows and their addresses.

Then several of us divided into teams to deliver the flowers using the list. The Lodge Master and I joined forces and together drove to a widow's house to make our first delivery. Neither of us had known the Brother, but that didn't matter. We walked to the door, rang the bell and the widow answered. We greeted her and were very sincere in wishing her season's greetings and our condolences for the loss of her husband. The poor woman looked a little surprised. She looked back into the living room and called out, "Joe... Are you dead?"   Joe came to the door, "Not the last time I checked." Now it was our turn to be surprised. 

The Master and I apologized for the "clerical oversight" and made a hasty retreat. It turns out, when I sent the Secretary that test database to recover his lost data, I had been using Joe's name to test the method for marking Brothers as having passed away. Prior to restoring the data, I did not resurrect him. You might blame me for this, but I prefer to think of it as a computer error. By the way, we let Joe's wife keep the flowers.


Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.